Leave Title IX alone

To the Journal editor:

Equal access to education means equal opportunity for young people. It’s important; equal opportunity unleashes the full strength of all our citizens, not just the those who have historically been part of a favored group.

Equal access to education includes freedom from sexual assault and harassment, plus meaningful and accessible sources of redress when assault does happen. Up till now, Title IX has protected those rights. But now that protection is in grave danger.

The danger comes from Betsy DeVos’ Department of Education, which has issued a proposed rule that would gut Title IX protections in at least five major ways.

The rule’s pinched redefinition of sexual harassment would permit many categories of offensive and even violent behavior to be excluded.

The rule’s demand that harassment be “pervasive” would mean that students would have to endure a long series of offensive assaults before being allowed to seek relief.

The rule would set up a labyrinth of which officials would or would not be required to act on a complaint, forcing traumatized students to navigate a bureaucratic rat’s maze to get help.

The rule would demand that schools ignore most off-campus activity, including the online world where so many students spend so much of their time; victims would have to try to cope with sharing classrooms side-by-side with people who had assaulted them in these settings.

The rule would allow–and in some instances compel–schools to use procedures that would make it harder for victimized students to come forward, harder for them to prove their injuries, and harder for them to receive help.

Instead of allowing schools to use the standards which federal courts use in deciding Title IX cases, the rule would demand a much harsher standard.

This rule is dangerous and unfair; it should be stopped. The Department of Education is required to listen to our voices through a notice-and-comment period which allows the public to express our dismay. But the deadline looms. Comments must be received by January 28.

It’s not hard. Just submit comments in Microsoft Word format through the Federal Rulemaking ePortal under www.regulations.gov, putting the Docket ID number, ED-2018-OCR-0064, at the top of your document. Comments can also be mailed to Brittany Bull, Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue SW, Room 6E310, Washington, DC 20202, again to be received by Jan. 28.

Speak up. Our youth depend on us.